TV REPRESENTATION. Television fare that reflects the nation’s
increasing racial and ethnic diversity is finding favor with industry
gatekeepers and viewers, according to a study of the 2019-2020 TV season
released in late October. Despite the pandemic that stymied Hollywood
production, there were varying measures of growth in the hiring of
people of color — and women — in on- and off-camera jobs, researchers at
the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), said in the report.
Pictured is a cast photo for the show "Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens."
(Photo courtesy of Comedy Central)
From The Asian Reporter, V31, #11 (November 1, 2021), page 9.
Diversity study: TV looks more like U.S. and
By Lynn Elber
AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES — Television fare that reflects the nation’s increasing
racial and ethnic diversity is finding favor with industry gatekeepers
and viewers, according to a study of the 2019-2020 TV season released in
Despite the pandemic that stymied Hollywood production, there were
varying measures of growth in the hiring of people of color — and women
— in on- and off-camera jobs, researchers at the University of
California, Los Angeles (UCLA), said in the report.
In return, audience enthusiasm for shows, such as creator-star Issa
Rae’s "Insecure" and the miniseries "Watchmen" with Emmy-winning actor
Regina King, proved that inclusion pays business as well as social
dividends, said Darnell Hunt, dean of the school’s social sciences
The report’s biggest takeaway is "the mounting evidence for how
important diversity is to today’s audience," Hunt said in an interview.
He co-wrote the annual report with Ana-Christina Ramon, a UCLA social
sciences research director.
Across streaming, cable, and broadcast platforms, viewership among
adults age 18 to 49 peaked in many cases when a show had a
"majority-minority cast," Hunt said.
That conforms to the changing United States. In 2010, four years
before UCLA issued its first report on Hollywood’s diversity record,
whites represented 63.7% of the population. In 2020, that Census figure
was just under 58%, the lowest on record.
"People basically want to see the TV shows that look like America,
that have characters they can relate to and have experiences that
resonate with them," Hunt said.
That builds on and reinforces previous findings for TV, he said. It
also reflects the counterpart UCLA film study released earlier this
For all households including whites, for example, median ratings were
highest for scripted broadcast shows in which people of color were
between 31% and 40% of the credited writers, the study found.
For white, Latino, and Asian-American homes, median ratings peaked
for scripted cable shows whose casts were from 41% to 50% people of
color, while Black household ratings were highest for shows with
"majority-minority casts," the report said.
People of color fell short of parity in lead acting roles on all
platforms. But for the first time in the report’s history, overall cast
diversity on scripted broadcast TV was slightly higher than in the
general U.S. population (just under 43% ethnic and racial groups).
While actors of color also came close to "proportionate
representation" in cable and streaming, most of the gains could be
attributed to the increasing share of Black and multiracial roles,
Asian Americans — the country’s fastest-growing group — and Latinos
remain underrepresented, while Native Americans are "virtually
invisible," the report said.
As study co-author Ramon sees it, the problem lies partly with the
industry’s white monolith of network and studio executives who tend to
view those ethnicities "very niche."
"I think they oftentimes think of stories from Latinx creators and
Asian-American creators as something really quite peripheral. ... and
not appealing to the quote-unquote mainstream," she said.
Hunt also cites "unimaginative" executive-suite decisions that reduce
diversity to a choice between Black or white hires which he said
underscores the need for other ethnic groups to fill decision-making
The study examined a total of 461 scripted shows across all platforms
to determine the employment inroads made by women and people of color as
actors, writers, directors, and series creators.
Generally, there was an increase in racial diversity in nearly all
the job categories, with representation among women improving in roughly
half of them.
Compared to the previous UCLA report, more people of color were
credited writers across all of TV, with the percentage on broadcast
episodes increasing from 23.4% to 26.4%; on cable, from 25.8% to 28.6%;
on streaming, from 22.8% to 24.2%.
According to the study, "most of these gains can be attributed to
women of color" — for instance, Robin Thede and her HBO series "A Black
Lady Sketch Show." In contrast, men of color increased among broadcast
credited writers but "treaded water in cable and digital."
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